The Senate easily cleared the first procedural hurdle in its effort to keep the government funded, voting 100 to 0 Wednesday to begin debate on a temporary spending bill that both chambers of Congress must pass by the end of the month to avert a shutdown.
The vote opens 30 hours of debate on a measure to temporarily extend government funding, setting up a vote as late as this weekend. Both houses of Congress must pass a stopgap funding bill by October 1, or the government will shut down.
The vote came shortly after Senator Ted Cruz wrapped up his 21-hour talkathon in opposition to Barack Obama’s healthcare law. After a speech that ripped his Senate colleagues, the Texas Republican joined them in moving forward toward debating the measure. He said his extended oratory wasn’t about opposing the procedural motion. “This debate was whether Washington is going to listen to the American people,” Cruz said after he stepped off the Senate floor.
Cruz then called for his 45 Republican colleagues to vote against cloture on the House bill that keeps the government running and defunds Obamacare, because Majority Leader Harry Reid will strip out the defund provision. Many Senate Republicans, Cruz acknowledged, have not supported his proposal, which could result in a painful shutdown. ”Coming into this debate we clearly were not united. There were significant divisions in the conference,” he said. “I hope those divisions dissolve.”
Cruz’s move may have not changed the course of Senate business, but it attracted widespread media attention. Procedural votes rarely gain national fanfare, but Cruz took the unusual step of speaking on the floor without a bathroom break for 21 hours, which would have been the fourth longest filibuster in Senate history. It technically does not qualify because the speech did not delay the looming vote.
At one point during the speech, Cruz read a bedtime story to his children: Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham. Before the vote Wednesday, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York told Cruz to take the “moral” of the story and apply it to his position on Obamacare. “Try something before you condemn it,” Schumer said. “You may actually like it.”